|Arrest of Robert Shuler Smith (Credit:WAPT)|
Update (11:15 AM): The affidavit and six charges are posted below. Yes, they are related to the Christopher Butler cases that were reported only here on JJ. Nutshell version: The affidavit alleges the D.A. tried to help a convicted drug dealer get out of jail, visited him in jail, and tried to use a grand jury to get a circuit judge to drop a case against the drug dealer. Yes, it is alleged he tried to use a grand jury to intimidate a judge into dropping a case.
The affidavit states:
*Darnell Turner was charged with aggravated assault and domestic violence. The indictment charges Smith of leaking confidential communications between his office and the court to Turner's Lawyer, Dennis Sweet, III and assisting him as well. It states the "District Attorney not to advise, counsel, consult, or defend criminals."
*Our old friend Christopher Butler was charged with embezzlement and wire fraud by the Attorney General (See link posted below for further coverage of that case.). The indictment states Smith visited Butler in jail "outside the presence of Butler's attorney on May 26, 2016 from 8:56 AM to 9:13 AM". JJ reported in March:
Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith clashed with the Mississippi Attorney General in Judge Melvin Priester's courtroom two weeks ago over convicted drug dealer Christopher Butler. The AG is prosecuting Butler for alleged consumer fraud. However, Mr. Smith showed up unannounced and unexpected at a preliminary hearing and tried to take control of the case. It was a rather colorful hearing as Judge Priester allowed Mr. Smith to have his say and then shut him down. The District Attorney also announced that he had subpoenaed the AG's prosecutors before a grand jury over the case as well and accused Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics agents of doctoring videotapes and trying to frame Butler in a separate case. Mr. Smith even argued that the Attorney General can not prosecute a case for anything in Hinds County without his consent. Judge Priester postponed the preliminary hearing until today "Because of the raucous and unprofessional behavior by Mr. Smith, District Attorney.."*Smith sent a letter on March 21, 2016 to Sanford Knott, Butler's lawyer" that advised him "of various ways to attack the state's pending case against Mr. Butler; thereby providing advice, counsel, and defense to Christopher Butler, by and through his attorney, (Question: will Knott get in trouble with the bar? Is this grounds for a conspiracy charge against Knott?)
The Attorney General's Consumer Fraud Division is prosecuting Butler for alleged consumer fraud involving a West Jackson furniture store and Florida finance company. He was arrested for several charges of mail fraud and false pretenses. The division initiated and conducted the investigation and prosecution (this fact is important). The state's affidavit alleges Butler obtained "signed documentation from Justin Marquise Runnels at Mega Mattress Furniture Outlet in order to send a fraudulent invoice to Uown in order to obtain funds in excess of $500 obtained from Uown." Butler was arrested and a preliminary hearing was scheduled for March 3. Butler is represented by the Honorable Sanford Knott, attorney at law.
Enter the District Attorney. The District Attorney appeared in court when the hearing began. Before this story goes any further, it is necessary to remind the readers of Mr. Smith's involvement with Mr. Butler. Butler was indicted twice in 2012 for trying to sell cocaine. The two cases are assigned to Judge Jeff Weill. Smith tried to dismiss the case last year but Judge Weill denied the requests to dismiss. Judge Weill told the District Attorney to submit motions to nolle prosequi in writing and provide grounds for dismissing the two cases, as Mr. Smith had made his requests orally. The District Attorney then filed a motion to recuse, but Judge Weill denied the motion and continues to hear the two cases. Earlier post with partial copy of court file. Butler has a previous conviction for selling cocaine. (Read the rest of the March 2016 post and be sure to read the transcript)
*Smith visited Butler in jail earlier on May 9, 2016 without his lawyer present to advise him on the embezzlement and wire fraud charges.
*District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith referred to Butler as "his client" and tried to "retain defense counsel" for Butler on the embezzlement and wire fraud charges. The affidavit states that he worked with Butler's lawyer to get him released from the Hinds County Detention Center.
*District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith allegedly tired to get a grand jury to "pressure a sitting circuit court judge to dismiss the charges" of possession of marijuana against Christopher Butler. JJ can report that Circuit Judge was the honorable Jeff Weill.
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